A 100% transparent look at my first Medium paycheck

They pay more than I expected.

The cash hit my bank account today. It’s official: Medium pays writers.

Before I break down what I made, here are some relevant links in case this is the first you’ve heard about Medium paying actual money to actual people.

  • Partner Program FAQ. You’ll learn how Medium determines what to pay, how claps influence payment, and more good stuff.
  • Want to get paid for writing on Medium? You can join the wait list here. I was lucky enough to receive an invite from Medium a month or two ago, so that’s when I enrolled.
  • If you get consistent value from this place, if you love writing on the platform and reading great stories and making friends from all over the world, you need to become a member. Straight up. It’s $5 a month. Medium made a gusty call when they gave advertisers the finger and asked humans to pony up for a monthly subscription. If you like Medium, you should support it. Pretty simple.

Anyway, here it is. Paycheck #1.

See that “How your locked stories contributed” part? If and when you become a paid writer, you’ll have a couple options before you publish:

  1. You can lock the story and make it readable for members only. This lowers the traffic you’ll get, but it’s the only way to get paid. You can choose to unlock a story later on, but once you do, you’ll stop getting paid for it.
  2. You can leave the story unlocked so anyone can read it. You will not get paid for it, but your traffic numbers will probably be higher. Also, you can choose to lock a previously unlocked story any time you want.

The four stories in that screenshot were the only ones I chose to lock, so Medium paid me for them. Make sense? Cool. Let’s look at each of the stories.

Locked Story 1:

  • 1K views, 843 reads, 78% read ratio
  • 76 fans
  • 617 claps
  • Payment: $139.73

This one was a bit of an experiment since it was my first locked post. I wanted to see if writing locked stories in the future was a good idea.

It’s easily one of the best stories I’ve written on Medium. I take it to be a good sign if I’m laughing as I write something, and I really never stopped laughing as I told the tragic tale of Chad, Stacy and the ex who would not let go.

I’m positive the traffic suffered because I chose to lock it, but I was pleasantly surprised when I saw Medium’s estimated payment for my efforts. So I chose to keep going.

Locked Stories 2 and 3:

  • 51K combined views, 42K combined reads
  • 8,800 combined fans
  • 98K combined claps
  • Combined payment: $50.05

Wondering why these stories got so much traffic but so little payment? It’s because the vast majority of the views and claps happened when they were unlocked and free for anyone to read. I locked each of them a couple weeks after initially publishing.

So these stories are two quality examples of unlocked posts that went bananas until they were locked. Once that happened, traffic came to a screeching halt. I figured it would happen, but I wanted to see what the payment would wind up being.

Let the traffic numbers in these two stories be a lesson to you: If you want to gain views, reads and followers, just write about Medium whenever they make changes.

Note: Both of these stories are unlocked again if you want to read them.

As a couple people have mentioned in the comments, locking posts specifically related to Medium is a violation of their partner program terms. I’m not sure if I’m keeping or giving back the $50.05 I earned for these two stories, but whatever Medium decides is cool with me.

Locked Story 4:

  • 121 views, 104 reads, 86% read ratio
  • 18 fans
  • 219 claps
  • Payment: $57.54

As I said, that first locked story is one of the best things I’ve written on Medium. This one? Not so much. I probably deserve about a third of what I got paid here. But hey! I’ll take it.

Advice for anyone who wants to be paid by Medium

  • Have other irons in the fire. I’m employed full-time as an agency copywriter and part-time as a freelancer, and this Medium income is (and hopefully always will be) nothing but icing on the cake.
  • Write plenty of unlocked stories. Until Medium membership is universally adopted, locking your posts will limit your traffic. If you’re already an established Medium presence, locking all your stories might work. But if you’re just starting out and trying to grow, you need a mix of both.
  • Do not be discouraged by small payouts.
  • Grow your following by writing stuff you’re proud of.
  • Grow your following by publishing something new at least once a week.
  • Grow your following by finding writers you like and telling them you like them. Most will reciprocate and check out what you’ve written.
  • Grow your following by finding publications you like and asking to write for them.
  • Have fun! If you’re enjoying yourself as you write, your readers will enjoy what you feed them.